Accessibility links

Newsline - December 7, 2001


RUSSIA AND NATO SET UP PERMANENT JOINT COUNCIL
At a joint session of foreign ministers from Russia and the 19 NATO members in Brussels on 6 December, the creation of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council was announced, Russian and international media reported. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that the new council will not be a consultative organ, but an independent decision-making body for areas of joint concern, especially in the international fight against global terrorism, the BBC reported. However, Robertson stressed that Russian President Putin has accepted NATO's condition that it retains its right to make decisions independent from Russia in other areas. VY

ELECTIONS FAVORED FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL...
In an interview with RTR on 5 December, newly elected Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said that he favors holding elections for seats in the upper legislative chamber. He said that "this edition of the Federation Council will probably work to the end of its term in its current form." He added that he does not expect a need in the future for any groups within the council, "with the possible exception of territorially based groups." The same day, Mironov told reporters in Moscow that he believes the present condition of the upper house is transitional, and will "last for several years until amendments are made to the constitution." JAC

...AS ANOTHER MUSCOVITE IS TAPPED AS SENATOR
The Omsk Oblast's legislative assembly on 6 December confirmed Valerii Tikhomirov as a representative for the oblast's executive office, Interfax-Eurasia reported. In his previous capacity as federal deputy tax minister, Tikhomirov led the department for international tax relations and administration of resource payments. "Vremya novostei" noted on 6 December that the majority of the new senators are "professional lobbyists," for whom their new seat will only strengthen their already existing opportunities." The daily concluded that "as a serious political organ, the senate no longer exists." JAC

RUSSIAN JEWISH CONGRESS ELECTS NEW LEADER
The board of the Russian Jewish Congress (REK) elected Yevgenii Satanovskii as its new president on 6 December, RIA-Novosti reported. Satanovskii, who previously directed the organization's Institute of the Middle East and Israel, replaces Leonid Nevzlin, who is leaving his position after being elected to represent Mordovia in the Federation Council. In an interview with strana.ru the same day, Satanovskii said improving relations between the REK and the larger Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR) will be his top priority. REK is made up mainly of reformist and conservative Jewish organizations, while FEOR is an umbrella organization for Orthodox communities. VY

SECURITY COMMITTEE TO WARN WEST OF TERRORIST CAPABILITIES...
Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Nikolai Kovalev said on 6 December that Russia's intelligence community has warned and will continue to give the United States any information it receives indicating that terrorists are in possession of chemical, biological, and atomic weapons, pravda.ru reported. Kovalev added that he supports President Putin's efforts to establish closer ties with the United States because that policy is facilitating the battle against international terrorism, and because it has made the West more attentive to Russia's opinions. VY

...AS SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY CLAIMS RUSSIA IS VICTIM OF DOUBLE STANDARD ON TERRORISM
While addressing a meeting with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Belarus and Moldova, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said that "some countries in the West cannot refrain from adding fuel to conflicts in Russia's sphere of influence," Russian media reported. At the same time, Rushailo said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia have a "double standard policy regarding Chechen terrorists," especially as far as their financing is concerned. Rushailo added that Russia is consulting with the United States on the issue, and would like to initiate an investigation of countries' compliance with the UN resolution on preventing the financing of terrorist organizations. VY

INTERIOR MINISTRY ARRESTS SEVEN FOR ATTEMPTING TO SELL NUCLEAR MATERIAL
A spokesman for Moscow's Interior Ministry said that his agency arrested seven organized crime members on 6 December after they tried to sell more than one kilogram of uranium-235 to undercover officers, RTR reported. Ministry investigators are now trying to find out the origin of the radioactive material. They suspect that it may have come from a facility that processes fuel for nuclear submarines VY

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT STRESSES RUSSIA'S ROLE IN SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
Speaking to journalists in Athens following his talks with his Greek counterpart Costis Stephanopoulos on 6 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "Russia will not allow anyone to redraw the borders in the Balkans whatever the slogan they use for it," Russian news agencies reported. Putin also stressed that Russia historically played and will continue to play an important role in Southeastern Europe. He noted the special ties between two countries in the past, their present economic cooperation, and said that Russia wants more access to tenders for the rearmament programs of the Greek army. VY

DESPITE GROWING PRESSURE, SAKHA PRESIDENT HAS BULK OF REPUBLIC BEHIND HIM
The government of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic expressed bewilderment on 6 December at the announcement made the previous day that a St. Petersburg investment company, Baltoneksim Finans, plans to initiate criminal proceedings against President Mikhail Nikolaev and the republic's former finance minister, Aleksandr Kugaevskii. The company accuses the government of not fulfilling an obligation to pay a 20.1 million ruble ($700,000) debt. Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 6 December that according to recent opinion polls, some 80 percent of the republic's population is ready to support Nikolaev in upcoming 23 December presidential elections. He is also supported by practically all of the Sakha elite. JAC

NEXT PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN UFA MAY TAKE PLACE EARLY
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 5 December, citing an unnamed source, that Bashkortostan's presidential elections may be pushed up to take place during the first half of 2002. Aleksandr Arinin, the head of Moscow's Federation and Civil Society Institute, is reportedly behind the effort to hold early elections. Arinin has sought to register as a candidate in past presidential elections in Ufa without success. The last presidential elections were also moved up from December 1998 to June 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1998). JAC

EXPERTS WARN THAT GLOBAL OIL PRICES WILL CONTINUE TO FALL
Slavneft President Andrei Shtorkh said on 6 December that the decision by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's government to cut Russian oil exports in compliance with OPEC requests will not prevent global oil prices from falling, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The dynamics of global oil prices are regulated by factors much more complicated than the simple economic principles of supply and demand, added Moscow Globalization Institute Director Mikhail Delyagin. VY

LIE DETECTORS BECOME A MANAGEMENT TOOL
While the state Duma continues to debate the mandatory clearance of all state employees who have access to state secrets, lie detectors are becoming a common management tool in the recruitment process of private companies, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 December. Since the beginning of this year, some 18,000 current or future employees of private companies have been subjected to lie detector tests in Russia. The most frequently asked questions are whether those tested are concerned about the consumption of alcoholic drinks and narcotics, chronic diseases, their marital lives, and whether they used to steal or sell information from the companies where they previously worked. The use of lie detectors by private companies is not regulated by law, and they are sold freely in Russia, lawyer Ilya Gelfand explained to "Izvestiya." "Although results of lie detector tests cannot be used as a pretext to dismiss an employee or not to recruit a job applicant, it is clear enough that managers will always find other reasons to justify their decision," Gelfand said. VC

PUTIN WORRIED OVER ABOUT SMALL BUSINESSES IN RUSSIA
In his address to the congress of the Association of Business Organizations, which represents small and medium-sized businesses in Russia, President Putin said on 5 December that he is very concerned over that sector's status in the Russian economy, NTV reported. He said that while countries with developed market economies can boast that 65 percent of active employees work in small and medium companies, in Russia that sector employs just 22 percent of the labor market. In addition, Putin said that since 1996 that sector has stopped growing, and today one-fourth of all small businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy. Putin said that during the meetings "I heard the congress complain that small business entrepreneurs are struggling under the burden of illegally imposed duties, and I would like to get from you a list of the organizations engaged in this practice." VY

EXPLOSION AT GERMAN CONSULATE NOT ATTRIBUTED TO TERRORISM
Vadim Goncharov, the deputy presidential envoy to the Siberian federal district, told Interfax-Eurasia on 6 December that the discovery of a grenade at the German Consulate in Novosibirsk the previous day was linked with "hooliganism," and not terrorism. According to the agency, this is not the first act of hooliganism against the consulate. For example, the state flag of Germany has been stolen several times, and once the doorway was set on fire. JAC

KARELIA OFFICIALLY GIVES UP ON REVOLUTION IN FINLAND
Karelia's legislative assembly is expected to abolish its Finnish-language hymn but retain its Russian one, ntvru.com reported on 6 December. According to the website, Article 14 of the republic's constitution defines the republic's sole state language as Russian. Finnish was one of the republic's state languages during the Soviet era, in part, ntvru.com said, because Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was hoping to provoke a revolution in neighboring Finland. JAC

SVERDLOVSK OBLAST TOPS CRIME CHARTS
According to data for the first 11 months of 2001, Sverdlovsk Oblast is one of the most crime-ridden regions in Russia, regions.ru reported on 6 December, quoting Yurii Ovchinnikov, the head of the public security police for the Interior Ministry's directorate in Sverdlovsk Oblast. From January to November, Sverdlovsk Oblast registered more than 112,000 crimes -- which is higher than those reported by the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Ovchinnikov said one of the basic reasons for the region's growing crime rate is the continuing shortage of policemen. For example, in Yekaterinburg only 350 policemen are ensuring safe streets in that city instead of the recommended 1,000. JAC

DEFENSE MINISTER PROMISES TO CAPTURE OR KILL CHECHEN WARLORDS
Sergei Ivanov said on 6 December that the primary goal of the Russian army, Federal Security Service, and the Interior Ministry is to capture or destroy the leaders of Chechen armed formations, ITAR-TASS reported. "Whatever you will hear about talks or consultations, our plans for this winter remain the same: to completely crush 'band formations' and their chieftains, and I promise it will happen," Ivanov said. VY

PACE CHAIRMAN CONCERNED AT DIVERGING STATEMENTS ON CHECHNYA
Speaking in Moscow on 6 December at the end of his visit to Chechnya, Lord Frank Judd, who is chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, again called for peace talks to end the Chechen conflict, stressing that a military solution is not an option. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 December, Judd expressed concern that while members of the Russian delegation to recent council hearings on Chechnya in Strasbourg were in favor of peace talks, and of the participation in them of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, some unnamed senior officials with whom he spoke in Grozny earlier this week oppose any negotiations with Maskhadov. He added that much of what those officials said is at odds with pronouncements by President Putin. Judd also admitted he was profoundly disturbed by conditions at displaced persons' camps he visited in Chechnya, which he believes have deteriorated since his earlier visits. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CLAIMS MASS SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGN TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT
Over 100,000 people throughout Armenia have responded positively to an appeal by opposition parties to sign their petition calling for the impeachment of President Robert Kocharian, National Unity Party leader Artashes Geghamian told Noyan Tapan on 6 December. The campaign to impeach the president, whom the opposition accuses of violating the Armenian Constitution, condoning terrorism, and precipitating the country into a deep political, moral, psychological and socioeconomic crisis, was launched three months ago (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 32, 23 September 2001). Under the Armenian Constitution, only the parliament can begin impeachment proceedings, for which a two-thirds majority vote is needed. Also on 6 December, Communist Party of Armenia leader Khoren Sargsian told a press conference that his party has not yet decided whether to back that impeachment bid, but will probably do so in response to pressure from within the party, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

NEW ARMENIAN ENERGY MINISTER SEEKS TO REVERSE LOSSES
Speaking in Yerevan on 6 December after attending a cabinet meeting chaired by President Kocharian, newly appointed Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said his top priority will be to conduct a sweeping overhaul of the sector in a bid to reduce its financial losses, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He did not, however, give details of planned changes. Movsisian also said he still believes it possible, despite two failed tenders, to privatize four energy distribution networks. LF

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKERS MEET
Following talks in Moscow on 6 December with an Armenian parliament delegation headed by speaker Armen Khachatrian, Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that the positions of Moscow and Yerevan on the need for a peaceful solution of the Karabakh conflict coincide, Arminfo reported. They also both rejected proposals that the Council of Europe should join the process of mediating a solution to the conflict along with the OSCE Minsk Group. Seleznev further noted that the meeting last week on the sidelines of the CIS summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Armenian counterpart Kocharian testified to the two leaders' similar standpoints on combating terrorism. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS NO THREAT EXISTS TO PRESS FREEDOM
During a 6 December meeting with U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson, Heidar Aliev dismissed as groundless opposition fears that a crackdown on the independent media may be in the offing, proclaiming that he personally is the guarantor of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, Turan reported. At the second congress late last month of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, Aliev and other speakers had harshly criticized both the opposition and opposition media (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 40, 6 December 2001). Also on 6 December, electricity was cut off to a private printing house in Baku that prints the opposition newspapers "Yeni Musavat" and "Hurriyet," "Yeni Musavat" Editor Rauf Arifoglu told a press conference on 7 December. As a result, the 7 December issue of "Hurriyet" was not published, and the print run of "Yeni Musavat" was 2,000 fewer than normal. LF

AZERBAIJAN DENIES PLANS TO PURCHASE ISRAELI WEAPONRY
An unnamed Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman has rejected as untrue an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 December claiming that Baku plans to purchase from Israel 100 Merkava tanks and 30 military aircraft, according to the independent daily "Azadlyg" on 6 December, as cited by Turan and Groong. LF

BREAKAWAY GEORGIAN REGION HOLDS PRESIDENTIAL RUNOFF
According to preliminary returns, businessman Eduard Kokoev won the runoff poll on 6 December for president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia with over 55 percent of the vote, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Kokoev's rival, regional Communist Party leader Stanislav Kochiev, polled 40 percent. Voter turnout was estimated at 63 percent. Kokoev advocates the unification of the breakaway republic with the contiguous Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniya, which is part of the Russian Federation. LF

KAZAKHSTAN ACCUSES KYRGYZSTAN OF STEALING NATURAL GAS
Visiting Kaztransgaz Director Kairat Sharipbaev told journalists in Bishkek on 6 December that Kazakhstan has lost some 10 million cubic meters of natural gas from the pipeline that runs from Kazakhstan via Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said if thefts of gas from that pipeline continue, Kazakhstan will be constrained to build a new 130-kilometer sector bypassing Kyrgyz territory. In recent years, Uzbekistan has repeatedly suspended supplies of natural gas to Kyrgyzstan. LF

KYRGYZ LEGISLATURE APPROVES U.S. USE OF AIRFIELDS
Kyrgyzstan's Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament) voted on 6 December to allow U.S. military aircraft to use the country's main international Manas airport near Bishkek for the duration of the antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan, Reuters and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Addressing deputies before the vote, President Askar Akaev said he believes Kyrgyzstan does not have the right to reject the U.S. request, and that China has been consulted and has no objections. The agreement reached earlier this week between the Kyrgyz leadership and international military officials refers only to the U.S., but Deputy Foreign Minister Asanbek Osmonaliev said on 6 December that other members of the international antiterrorism coalition that have requested use of Kyrgyz territory, including Canada, France, Italy, Australia, and South Korea, will also be allowed to use Manas airport, according to AP. Reuters quoted Transport and Communications Minister Kubanychbek Zhumaliev as saying that Kyrgyzstan will receive $7,000 for each takeoff or landing by a large aircraft. LF

IRANIAN ENVOY VISITS TURKMENISTAN
Iran's envoy for Caspian issues, Mehdi Safari, met for 90 minutes in Ashgabat on 6 December with Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, ITAR-TASS and AP reported. Safari said topics discussed included bilateral relations; economic cooperation, including exports of Turkmen gas to Iran; and the problem of arriving at a definition of the Caspian's legal status that is acceptable to all five littoral states. Safari noted that the positions of Iran and Turkmenistan on that latter issue coincide. An official visit by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to Ashgabat was scheduled for March 2002. LF

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN HAIL BONN ACCORD ON AFGHANISTAN...
The Tajik Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on 6 December that Dushanbe fully backs the agreement signed in Bonn the previous day on forming a provisional Afghan government, and hopes it will lay the foundation for ending the civil war in that country, Interfax reported. In Tashkent, President Islam Karimov also praised the Bonn accord, noting that he opposes the deployment in that country of a peacekeeping force under the aegis of either the UN or the antiterrorist coalition, ITAR-TASS reported. He told the Uzbek parliament that until a civilian administration is in place, individual field commanders in Afghanistan should assume responsibility for security in the areas they control, AP reported. Karimov also appealed to the international community to embark immediately on the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, and pledged to open the border bridge at Termez "soon," Interfax reported. But he stressed that measures must first be taken to preclude any threat from Afghanistan to the Uzbek population of Termez, AP reported. International aid agencies are frustrated that the Uzbeks' reluctance to open that bridge is delaying the transport of urgently needed humanitarian aid to northern Afghanistan. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT WANTS PROOF THAT IMU LEADER IS DEAD
President Karimov also said on 6 December that "there has been no documentary or visual evidence" to substantiate reports that Djuma Namangani, one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was indeed killed during the battle for Kunduz last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 27 November 2001). Karimov said he will continue to suspend judgment "until we have made sure he is really buried somewhere." LF

UZBEKISTAN TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON EXTENDING PRESIDENT'S TERM IN OFFICE
Uzbekistan's legislature voted overwhelmingly, with only two abstentions, on 6 December in favor of conducting a referendum on 27 January on whether to extend President Karimov's term as president by two years, from 2005 until 2007, Reuters and Interfax reported. Karimov was first elected to that post for a five-year term in 1991, but that term was extended until 2000 by a referendum in 1995. He was re-elected in January 2000 for a further five years with 92 percent of the vote in a ballot condemned by the international community as neither free nor fair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 January 2000). Parliament Chairman Erkin Khalilov argued on 6 December that "five years is not enough to accomplish all the large-scale undertakings" facing Karimov, and that extending the presidential term will help to "expand democracy." LF

BELARUSIAN TRADE UNION LEADER REMAINS IN THE SADDLE
Uladzimir Hancharyk, the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FTUB), has told journalists that a FTUB conference held behind closed doors in Minsk on 6 December expressed "overwhelming" support for his policies despite an attempt to initiate a vote of no-confidence in him, Belapan reported. Belarusian independent media have repeatedly reported in the past two months that the authorities urged various regional and branch trade union leaders to vote Hancharyk out of his post. Hancharyk, as the democratic opposition's candidate, challenged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 9 September presidential ballot. Hancharyk said four regional trade union bosses sought but failed to initiate a special convention to elect a new leader of the FTUB. Asked if he plans to stay in politics, Hancharyk said that "one cannot avoid defending trade union rights using political methods." JM

GERMANY PLEDGES TO SUPPORT UKRAINE'S INTEGRATION INTO EUROPE
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Kyiv on 6 December that Germany will support Ukraine's efforts to become an associate member of the EU. "Now it's the task for Ukraine's government to take corresponding measures and reach an agreement with the European Commission, and Germany will support it," AP quoted Schroeder as saying. "Ukraine's entry to the EU will not happen during my presidency or the next. I have only one desire: that we make an effort to become an associate member during my term," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said. Both sides signed an agreement on restructuring Ukraine's $296 million debt to Germany, which is part of a deal reached by Kyiv earlier this year with the Paris Club of creditor countries. Schroeder was the first top Western leader to visit Kyiv since the murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in September 2000, for which the opposition has blamed Kuchma and other government officials. JM

CRIMEAN NEWSPAPER PROBED FOR ANTI-SEMITIC PUBLICATION
The Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has launched criminal proceedings against the "Russkii Krym" newspaper in Simferopol in connection with anti-Semitic material it has published, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 6 December. Prosecutor Oleksandr Dobroriz said a motion will soon be submitted to court to ban the newspaper. An RFE/RL correspondent reported that "Russkii Krym," which is published by the Russian Movement of Crimea, carried an article that claimed to reveal "tricks of the Jews and their ominous role in the contemporary fate of the Russian people." The proceedings against "Russkii Krym," which were initiated under the Criminal Code provision that prohibits stirring up interethnic enmity, is the first criminal case against a media outlet in Crimea. JM

REFORM, CENTER PARTIES FORM NEW COALITION IN ESTONIAN CAPITAL
The Reform Party and the Center Party in the Tallinn City Council signed a coalition agreement on 7 December, ETA reported. Reform Party faction Chairwoman Maret Maripuu and Tallinn Regional Party head Urmas Paet, along with Center Party faction Chairman Toivo Tootsen and Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar, signed the agreement. The agreement calls for the abolishment of one deputy mayor and several City Council deputy chair positions, and for the city not to take out any more loans than the City Council approved this summer. The previous day, Center Party deputies initiated a no-confidence motion in Tallinn Mayor Tonis Palts of the Pro Patria Union. It is not yet clear how the formation of the coalition in the Tallinn City Council will affect the ruling coalition of the Pro Patria Union, Reform Party, and the Moderates in the parliament and government. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ABOLISHING LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT FROM ELECTION LAW
Vaira Vike-Freiberga told experts meeting at the Riga Palace on 6 December to assess the state language policy that the provision in the Election Law requiring candidates for parliament and local councils to be fluent in the official state language should be abolished, BNS reported. She stated that the provision is undemocratic because it creates unequal positions for Latvia's citizens. Vike-Freiberga called on the experts to offer suggestions by early January on how to amend the law, after which she will present those suggestions to the parliament. Deputies from the right-wing For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, and the People's Party were critical of the president's request, while those from Latvia's Way said they will provide comments only on specific proposals. Peter Semneby, the head of the OSCE's mission to Latvia, said that the president's request may help convince the OSCE to end the work of its mission to Latvia. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION PROPOSAL TO RECONSIDER 2002 DRAFT BUDGET
By a vote of 56 to 68, with one abstention, the parliament on 6 December rejected the proposal by right-wing and centrist parties to return the 2002 draft budget to the government for reconsideration, BNS reported. The proposed budget foresees revenues of 8.8 billion litas ($2.2 billion) and expenditures of 9.94 billion litas, and is expected to be approved by the parliament on 13 December. The parliament also adopted amendments to the Law on Excise Taxes that will raise the taxes on gasoline from 1,210 to 1,250 litas ($302.50 to $312.50) per ton beginning on 1 January 2002, and the duties on cigarettes from 32 to 36 litas per 1,000 cigarettes beginning on 1 April 2002. It also amended the Law on Legal Representation to allow lawyers from EU countries to practice in Lithuania, with those amendments going into effect on the day Lithuania enters the EU. SG

POLISH RADICAL AGRARIANS WARN AGAINST 'SOCIAL EXPLOSION'
The parliamentary caucus of the Self-Defense radical farmers union has sent a letter to President Aleksander Kwasniewski, saying that the creation of an alliance against Self-Defense would only add to spreading corruption and poverty in Poland, and could also provoke an "uncontrollable social explosion," PAP reported on 6 December. The letter was a response to Kwasniewski's appeal to Self-Defense to break with its firebrand populist leader Andrzej Lepper's policies, and to Kwasniewski's threat to form an anti-Self-Defense coalition if the union fails to improve its behavior (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2001). Prosecutors are currently investigating Lepper's allegations of corruption with regard to five prominent politicians (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 December 2001). Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Barbara Piwnik said she will submit the motion to the Sejm to lift Lepper's parliamentary immunity if the prosecutors conclude that his allegations were slanderous. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT ASKS LOWER HOUSE TO EXPRESS OPINION ON KLAUS SPEECH...
Vaclav Havel sent a letter to the Chamber of Deputies on 6 December, asking its members to urgently answer "whether your chairman, Vaclav Klaus, spoke on your behalf and whether he expressed the opinion of a majority of your members in yesterday's deliberations in the European Parliament" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001). The chamber was to hold the debate on Klaus's speech on 7 December. CTK reported that Foreign Minister Jan Kavan left a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels in order to return to Prague to participate in the debate. Kavan said earlier that it would be "a pity" if the Czech Republic begins to be perceived as "putting the brakes on the process of EU integration." MS

...WHILE PREMIER BELITTLES ITS SIGNIFICANCE...
Unlike Havel and earlier critics of the speech, Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on 6 December that he does not believe the speech will hinder Prague's chances of joining the EU, CTK reported. Zeman said Klaus expressed his own and his party's positions, and not the positions of the Chamber of Deputies as a whole. This, he added, can only prove to the West that the Czech Republic is "a pluralist society, with different views." He said Klaus's opinions on the EU are in the minority, but admitted that "no other politician, whether from the left or from the right, has ever expressed these views in such crystal-pure form." Vladimir Spidla, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party, said earlier that Klaus's speech is proof that he is "incapable of representing the Chamber of Deputies." MS

...AND KLAUS REJECTS CRITICISM
On 6 December, Klaus rejected what he called the "dramatization" of his speech. He called on journalists "not to invent any political scandals and make a storm in a tea cup." The ODS leader told CTK that all he had done was remind his listeners of the 10th anniversary of the Maastrich Treaty, and to ask them whether the EU should continue on this road of "further integration." He added: "If some say that the continuity toward supranationalism is automatic, clear, and deterministic as well as necessary, I say this is not true and that no one has the right to assume that. The debate on where to stop is fundamental, indispensable, and legitimate." MS

SOLIH WITHDRAWS CZECH ASYLUM REQUEST
Uzbek human rights activist Mohammed Solih, who is under detention in Prague awaiting the decision on the extradition request by Uzbek authorities, on 6 December withdrew his application for receiving political asylum in the Czech Republic, CTK reported. His lawyer said Solih was doing so because his asylum in Norway has been "sufficiently proved," and called on the Czech authorities to act in accordance with international provisions on the status of refugees. Under the internationally binding convention of refugee status, persons with that status cannot be extradited to a country where he faces danger because of his or her political opinions. MS

PRAGUE COURT HEEDS ZEMAN APPEAL
The Prague High Court on 6 December heeded an appeal by Premier Zeman against the ruling of a lower instance court that he must pay 300,000 crowns ($8,099) in damages to journalist Ivan Brezina, whom Zeman had accused of corruption, CTK reported. Brezina said he will appeal the decision before the Supreme Court. MS

PRESUMED ILLEGAL ARMS DEALER DETAINED IN SLOVAKIA
Slovak police detained Peter Jusko on 6 December after a police investigator accused him and two other accomplices of attempting to illegally export combat helicopters to African countries, CTK reported. The illegal exports were recently uncovered in a report by UN investigators. Jusko will be charged together with Kyrgyz General Rashid Urazmatov and Russian citizen Aleksandr Islamov, both of whom are to be tried in absentia. If convicted, they face eight years in prison. The Investigation Office said that Urazmatov, with the assistance of Islamov, in 2000 signed with the Trencin-based Aircraft Repairer a contract for the repair of a Kyrgyz Mi-35 helicopter on the basis of faked documents. The helicopter was brought to Slovakia and after repairs it was illegally exported to Liberia, which is subject to a UN arms export embargo. A similar attempt was foiled in another case, in which the customs authorities seized the helicopter and Jusko subsequently attempted to reacquire it. In doing so, Jusko submitted falsified certificates alleging that the machine was to be exported to Guinea, and later changed the destination to Namibia. MS

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRITICIZES SLOVAKIA'S TREATMENT OF DETAINED PERSONS
The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture issued a report in Strasbourg on 6 December that harshly criticized Slovakia for mistreating people detained by police, and for the country's prison conditions, CTK reported. The committee said police use "aggressive behavior" and "brutal methods" in the interrogation of suspects, going as far as to have them bitten by dogs. It also said the right of suspects to consult a defense lawyer is often infringed upon, and that Slovak prisons are overcrowded. MS

EU COMMISSION PRODS HUNGARY ON STATUS LAW
The European Commission does not recommend that Hungary amend its Status Law, but does encourage the country to reach agreement with its neighbors regarding its implementation, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told reporters on 6 December after meeting with EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen in Brussels. MSZ

BUDAPEST HOSTS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Former President Arpad Goncz told an international antidiscrimination conference in Budapest on 6 December that discrimination forms part of daily life in Hungary, and that eliminating it constitutes a "tremendous challenge" for the country. Goncz drew particular attention to the state of the Roma, saying that loopholes in the law create the possibility for discrimination. Minority rights ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach outlined at the conference his office's recent drafting of a comprehensive antidiscrimination bill. In other news, Kaltenbach and Barnabas Lenkovics, the ombudsman for civil rights, released a joint statement warning that the eviction of persons from unlawfully occupied housing during winter can jeopardize the lives of those affected. Many of the evicted families belong to Hungary's Romany community. MSZ

MACEDONIA'S QUEST FOR FUNDS IN JEOPARDY
The parliament failed on 6 December to pass a law on local self-government that is a key element of the peace package, AP reported from Skopje (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 December 2001). Ethnic Macedonian deputies proposed several amendments to water down the bill, which is aimed at granting ethnic Albanian communities more control over their own affairs. Shortly before midnight, Albanian deputies left the chambers in protest. Failure to pass the measure threatens plans for an EU-sponsored donors conference that was due to take place shortly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001). "There is a definite link between the donors conference and the adoption of the law, and since they have so far not adopted it, plans for the conference cannot proceed," Rudi Lotz of the EU's Skopje office said. The parliament is scheduled to meet on 7 December, but it is not clear whether it will pass the bill or whether the donors conference will go ahead before early 2002, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. PM

NATO APPROVES MACEDONIAN MISSION'S EXTENSION
Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Brussels on 7 December that NATO foreign ministers have agreed to extend Operation Amber Fox until 26 March 2002, as requested by the Macedonian authorities, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001). PM

BELGRADE SEEKS TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER KOSOVAR SERBS
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for Presevo and Kosova, said in the Serbian capital on 7 December that the Serbs of Kosova should not enter into any joint institutions with the Albanians without Belgrade's approval, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Belgrade authorities have been moving quickly in recent weeks to exploit the opening resulting from UN civilian administrator Hans Haekkerup's pre-election deal with the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 November 2001). The 90 percent Albanian majority wants nothing more to do with Belgrade. In related news, Covic said that during his recent visit to Brussels, NATO officials agreed to reduce the air security zone in Serbia and Montenegro in the border region around Kosova from 25 to five kilometers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001). PM

SERB THROWS GRENADE AT FRENCH KFOR TROOPS
An unidentified Serb threw a grenade at a group of French troops in northern Kosovska Mitrovica on 7 December, injuring one, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The French soldiers were searching the flats of two "known Serbian extremists" for illegal weapons at the time of the incident. PM

CHIRAC ARRIVES IN SERBIAN CAPITAL...
French President Jacques Chirac arrived in Belgrade on 7 December on a one-day visit before going on to Croatia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Serbia he will meet with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to discuss democratic reforms and cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. (He apparently will not meet with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who is an indicted war criminal.) "Vesti" reported that Chirac will also offer his hosts a deal for the purchase of an unspecified quantity of Mirage 2000 aircraft. France was one of the leading supporters of the lifting of a UN arms purchase ban against Serbia earlier this year. PM

...WILL MEET WITH MONTENEGRINS
Chirac is also expected to meet with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic during his brief stay in Belgrade, Reuters reported on 7 December. The French leader's message is likely to be that Montenegro should forget plans for independence and stay in a common state with Serbia. But in Podgorica on 6 December, Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said that he is "convinced that the result of the [upcoming Serbian-Montenegrin] dialogue will be a joint conclusion that the referendum on the state and legal status of Montenegro is needed." He stressed that the Montenegrins want the EU's security policy chief, Javier Solana, to be "an authentic witness to developments" by participating in the talks. PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER QUITS
Dragan Marsicanin of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) resigned as speaker of the Serbian legislature on 6 December after charging supporters of Djindjic's Democratic Party (DP) with tampering with ballots during a recent vote on new labor legislation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001). The bill, which narrowly passed, was opposed by supporters of Kostunica, former President Slobodan Milosevic, and Radical leader Vojislav Seselj. Marsicanin said Djindjic's government is "corrupt and criminal," adding that "after the vote theft in the parliament, Djindjic is opening a parliamentary crisis in Serbia." The new speaker is Natasa Micic. Djindjic aide Cedomir Jovanovic told AP that the DSS may soon be expelled from the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, which would then move to replace the DSS deputies in the parliament, who were elected on the DOS ticket. PM

SERBIAN COMMANDER DENIES THAT ARMY SHIELDS MLADIC
General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff, told the weekly "NIN" that his conscience is clear regarding his and his troops' performance in Kosova in 1998 and 1999, Reuters reported from Belgrade on 6 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001). Pavkovic stressed that the army opposed "terrorism and aggression" in Kosova. "What I can say for sure is that, as far as I know, the army committed no crimes in Kosovo nor have I ever issued any such order. If it is a crime that me and my men have defended the country against terrorism and aggression, then it is a completely different issue." He denied that his subordinates are harboring indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal General Ratko Mladic, whom Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte says is living in Serbia under army protection (see "RFE/RL "Balkan Report," 30 November 2001). PM

SERBIAN INTELLECTUALS FORM COMMITTEE FOR 'TRUTH ABOUT KARADZIC'
An unspecified number of Serbian intellectuals have formed the International Committee For The Truth About [Radovan] Karadzic and held their first press conference at the Tanjug center in Belgrade, "Vesti" reported on 7 December. Chairman Kosta Cavoski said that the Belgrade political leadership has treated Karadzic shabbily under pressure from foreigners and removed him from public life. Committee member Dragos Kalajic stressed that the group's aim is not to plead Karadzic's defense before the tribunal because it "does not recognize the pseudoamerican [sic] Hague tribunal." He added that The Hague's goal is to brand "the Serbs" as the aggressor in the Bosnian conflict so that Croatia and Bosnia can collect a war indemnity of $35 billion. PM

CROATIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF SHELLING OF DUBROVNIK
Commemorative ceremonies were held in Dubrovnik on 6 December to mark the 10th anniversary of the shelling of the medieval walled town by the Yugoslav army and navy, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2001). Meanwhile in Bjelovar, preparations are under way for the 14 December trial of seven Croatian military police for war crimes against Serbs, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

FIRST CROATIAN CENSUS RESULTS
Initial reports on the 2001 census show that the population stands at 4,381,352, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 6 December. This means a decline of 2.9 percent since the previous census one decade earlier. No Croatian city has 1 million inhabitants according to the 2001 population survey. In related news, the unemployment rate stands at 385,254, which is an increase of 0.48 percent over the previous month and 2.3 percent more than in December 2000. The authorities added, however, that the latest figures indicate that the growth rate of unemployment has begun to slow. PM

BOSNIAN BOARD STRENGTHENS PETRITSCH'S ROLE...
The international Peace Implementation Council (PIC), which includes the major powers and financial institutions promoting Bosnia's reconstruction and recovery, met in Brussels on 5 and 6 December to consider reform proposals put forward by High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, Reuters reported from Sarajevo. The PIC approved his plan to better coordinate the work of the foreigners in Bosnia by setting up "task forces" under Petritsch's authority to deal with rule of law, institution building, economic policy, and reconstruction and refugee return. PM

...BUT DOES NOT CHANGE DAYTON
Petritsch's spokesman Patrik Volf told Reuters in Sarajevo on 6 December that the PIC did not change any provisions of the Dayton agreement because only the Bosnian parliament has the authority to do so. Critics have charged that the Bosnian central government needs to be strengthened at the expense of the two entities if Bosnia is to become a viable state. Mark Thompson, the Balkans program director for the NGO International Crisis Group, said: "If Bosnia cannot be put on its feet by evolution, nudged along by the high representative, or by some negotiated constitutional settlement, then the international community must be ready to impose a more workable and democratic model than Dayton." PM

BOSNIA SEEKS CROATIAN INVESTMENTS
Alija Behmen, the prime minister of the Croat-Muslim federation, said in Sarajevo on 7 December that Croatian businessmen should invest more in his country, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He noted that German firms such as Volkswagen and Daimler are returning to Bosnia, and that Croatian investors should follow their example. He was speaking at a promotional meeting for the 2002 Zagreb trade fair. PM

HERZEGOVINA'S 'BATTLE OF THE CAFES'
Several dozen Muslims and Croats clashed in Stolac on 5 and 6 December, smashing windows in each other's cafes, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 December 2001). Of the four Croats recently arrested by police for vandalizing the construction site of a mosque, two have been released and two escaped. The two escapees turned themselves in to police on 7 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

EU LIFTS VISA RESTRICTIONS ON ROMANIAN CITIZENS
The EU Council of Justice and Interior Ministers unanimously decided on 7 December to lift visa requirements for Romanian citizens traveling to EU countries, Mediafax reported. The decision is to be enforced as of 1 January 2002. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER TO BE CHARGED?
An ad hoc presidential commission recommended on 6 December that the Justice Ministry launch judicial procedures against former Agriculture Minister Ioan Muresan, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Muresan is suspected of having illegally transferred 5,000 tons of edible oil from the state reserve to a private company. The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), of which Muresan is a leader, said in response that the recommendation is "part of the campaign of political persecution of the PNTCD." In yet another scandal in the offing involving the former government, Communications Minister Dan Nica said on 6 December that $75 million is missing from the money received in 1998 for the privatization of Romtelcom. MS

OECD RECOMMENDS IMPROVEMENTS IN ROMANIAN CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
The OECD on 6 December called for the effective enforcement in Romania of shareholders rights with respect to changes in share capital and the introduction of control mechanisms to prevent abuse-related party transactions, an OECD press release from Paris said. The OECD also called for measures to increase the effectiveness of company boards and board members, as well as improved supervision and monitoring of companies by accountants and auditors. MS

ROMANIA PARTIALLY LIFTS BAN ON ADOPTIONS
On 6 December, the government approved an emergency ordinance partially lifting the ban imposed in October on international adoptions of Romanian children, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The ordinance lifts the ban on adoption requests submitted before the current ban was enforced. The EU had criticized the adoption system, charging that it was riddled with corruption. The ordinance also makes it possible in "exceptional situations" to simplify adoption procedures. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL NOT NEGOTIATE WITH SMIRNOV
Vladimir Voronin on 6 December told Russian journalists in Chisinau that he is halting negotiations with separatist leader Igor Smirnov, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin said that after four meetings with Smirnov he has come to understand that "nothing can come out of those discussions." He said talks on seeking a solution to the Transdniester conflict will continue with the Russian and Ukrainian mediators, and that "sooner or later the problem will be settled, but without Smirnov." Voronin also said he "categorically excludes" any forceful solution to the conflict, and that "while Moldova does not have a single tank, the Transdniester has 18." He also said he has "just signed a decree" reducing the army by 3,000 men. "We are not going to fight the Transdniester, as we have other priorities. Corruption and crime are our chief enemies," he said. In related news, the State Duma, acting on a request by Voronin to Russian President Vladimir Putin, decided not to send observers to the Transdniester "presidential" elections on 9 December. MS

LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOLDOVA
Antanas Valionis, the chairman in office of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers and Lithuania's foreign minister, met on 6 December in Chisinau with Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau, urging for the dialogue between Moldova and Transdniester to be re-established, Flux and BNS reported. Valionis also called on the Moldovan government to recognize the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church and discussed with his counterpart the situation in the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region. In addition, he inquired about the envisaged reintroduction of the Soviet-era structure of the local administration (on the same day the government approved a draft to reintroduce that administrative structure). The two ministers signed agreements on visa-free travel for their diplomats, and readmission of illegal immigrants. Valionis also met with parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapciuc, who told him Moldova is the only CIS member that has passed a law on safeguarding the rights of national minorities. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT LIFTS BAN ON ADOPTIONS
The cabinet on 6 December decided to lift the ban imposed in the spring on adoption of Moldovan children by foreigners, Infotag reported. The ban was imposed after reports in the media alleged that the adopted children were being used as human organs donors. The Foreign Ministry submitted to the government a report on checks carried out on 399 families that had adopted Moldovan children, and concluded that no breach of law was revealed and that the children live in far better conditions than those that could be provided in Moldova. MS

BULGARIA TO DESTROY SS-23 MISSILES
Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov told journalists on 6 December that Bulgaria will dismantle and destroy its medium-range Soviet-made SS-23 missiles to prepare for possible NATO membership, international agencies reported. Svinarov said he received "preliminary assurances" that the U.S. will pay for the destruction of the missiles, and added that Sofia will seek to replace them with "good, up-to-date armaments, to be donated as a compensation by the U.S." Last October, Svinarov said that maintaining the missiles is no longer in line with Bulgaria's new military policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001). MS

BULGARIAN TELEVISION CHIEF DISMISSED
On 6 December, the Electronic Media Council voted five to four to dismiss Bulgarian National Television Director Lili Popova, BTA and AP reported. The council said Popova does not meet the requirements of a recently passed amendment to the Media Law that stipulates that the state television chief must have at least five years experience as a TV journalist. Popova had no TV experience when she was appointed to the post three years ago, but the requirement did not exist at that time. She said she will appeal the council's decision in court, arguing that laws do not apply retroactively. The council appointed Kiril Gotsev, who was Popova's deputy, as acting head of state television. Popova was considered to be loyal to former Premier Ivan Kostov. MS

FRANCE'S EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER IN BULGARIA
French European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici said in Sofia on 6 December that "Bulgaria should not be left out of the [EU] accession talks," AP reported. After meeting Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, Moscovici told journalists that France "backs the idea that the European enlargement project must be looked at from a political perspective, and that there must be no dividing lines among the [candidate] countries." However, he added that Bulgaria for its part must increase reform efforts that would bring it nearer to actual EU membership. Moscovici also expressed support for Bulgaria's joining of NATO. MS

There is no End Note today.


XS
SM
MD
LG