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Newsline - January 7, 2002


RUSSIAN PRESIDENT SENDS CHRISTMAS GREETINGS...
On 6 January, President Vladimir Putin conveyed his Christmas greetings to Orthodox believers and followers of other Christian denominations in Russia, Interfax reported the same day. "Orthodoxy, which occupies a special place in Russian history, continues to play a paramount role in preserving the moral pillars of social life," the presidential press service reported on 6 January. "The Russian Orthodox Church, acting closely together with members of other traditional religions and creeds, makes remarkable efforts to improve the spiritual health of our compatriots, foster patriotism, and strengthen civil peace and accord," the greeting read. VC

...AS RUSSIAN CHURCH HEAD LEADS ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION...
On 6 January, Patriarch Aleksii II led the Orthodox Christmas liturgy in Moscow's Church of Christ the Savior before 3,000 believers. The liturgy was broadcast nationwide by the ORT and RTR television channels, and online by the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate (http://www.russian-orthodox-church.org.ru), RIA-Novosti reported on 6 January. Meanwhile, the number of Russians celebrating Orthodox Christmas is growing steadily, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The agency said that in 1997 only 58 percent perceived Orthodox Christmas as a religious holiday; in 1998, 57 percent; in 1999, 62 percent; and some 67 percent in 2000. VY

...AND OPENS PARISH IN ANTARCTIC...
Russia sees the expansion of Russian Orthodox Church services to Antarctica as a symbol of the strengthening of Russia's presence on the continent, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 4 January. With Patriarch Aleksii II's blessing, it was decided to open a church at Russia's "Bellingshausen" polar station, which is located on the Antarctic island King George I. The priest will be Valerii Lukin, a famous polar scientist, and churchgoers will primarily be made up of polar researchers. VY

...AS CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS ON NEW RUSSIAN PASSPORTS CRITICIZED
"Severnyi kuryer" published a reader's letter criticizing the fact that new Russian passports are decorated with crosses as symbols of the Christian faith, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 4 January, citing nns.ru. The author of the letter, who identified himself as Russian, said that such a decoration lumps together all Russians, including its 20 million Muslims, as Christians, which will cause problems with passport exchange throughout the country. JAC

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRAISES UNDERSTANDING AMONG 'SHANGHAI SIX' MEMBERS
On 7 January, at the end of the special conference of foreign ministers from member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), Igor Ivanov said the organization wants Afghanistan to become a neutral state, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Such a scenario, Ivanov added, would allow Afghanistan to respect its international commitments, as well as the rights of its citizens. Ivanov stressed that the struggle against international terrorism should not be confined to Afghanistan alone and that the UN and its Security Council should play a central coordinating role, Russian agencies reported. Ivanov added that a global antiterrorist system should rely on regional structures, and that is why the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is working to set up a regional antiterrorist structure, according to RIA-Novosti. Smi.ru commented on 6 January that the appearance of U.S. military forces in Central Asia is of concern to Moscow, and that it seeks to discuss with Beijing what to do about their mutual Central Asian allies' recent rapprochement with the U.S. VC/VY

PUBLIC COMMITTEE FOR PASKO'S DEFENSE CREATED
A group of human rights activists including Elena Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov, the leader of the Soviet Union's democratic movement; Aleksei Simonov, the chairman of Sakharov Fund; and Sergei Grigoryants, the president of the civil rights foundation "Glasnost," have announced the creation of a public committee in defense of military journalist Grigorii Pasko, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 4 January. The committee, which includes journalists and scientists, said it will demand the release of Pasko, who was recently sentenced to four years imprisonment for "divulging state secrets" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). VY

A NEW TWIST IN TV-6'S LEGAL SAGA
TV-6 received a notification on 4 January that the presidium of the Higher Arbitration Court will convene on 11 January to discuss a protest filed by Higher Arbitration Court Deputy Chairman Eduard Renov against a 29 December ruling that invalidated an earlier ruling ordering the liquidation of TV-6 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002). TV-6's press spokesperson, Tatyana Blinova, expressed surprise that the higher arbitration court had reacted so quickly, a speed that she charged is unprecedented, ITAR-TASS reported. Blinova added that through his protest Renov is trying to reinstate the earlier decision calling for the liquidation of TV-6, according to ntvru.com. JAC

RUSSIAN GREENPEACE BRANCH TO STEP UP ITS FIGHT AGAINST NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS
Yevgenii Usov, the spokesman for Greenpeace Rossii, the Russian affiliate of the international ecological organization Greenpeace, told the RosBalt news agency on 4 January that "it is impossible to build up a democratic society in Russia while ignoring ecological problems." Usov also noted that in the past year the greatest achievement made by his organization was the incorporation of Lake Baikal onto the World Wildlife Fund's ecological heritage protection list, while the greatest defeat was the adoption by the Russian parliament of legislation allowing for the import of nuclear waste into the country. In 2002, Greenpeace Rossii plans to launch campaigns for a total ban of nuclear waste imports, the protection of forests, and the ratification by Russia of a convention to reduce the output of organically indestructible substances, Usov said. VY

NEW RAILWAYS MINISTER IS 'VETERAN OF SOVIET BUREAUCRACY'
President Putin signed a decree on 5 January appointing Gennadii Fadeev as Russia's new railways minister, Russian media reported. He replaces Nikolai Aksenenko, who was sacked as the result of a corruption scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2002.) Fadeev is a seasoned veteran of the agency. In different stages of his career he has been the head of both the Moscow and St. Petersburg (Oktyabrskaya) railroads; first deputy minister of USSR Railways (1988-1991); and railways minister of the Russian Federation (1992 to 1996). Politically, his party affiliation is to Fatherland-All Russia. Media reports also mentioned that he is related to the dismissed Aksenenko. VY

GOVERNMENT MULLS INCREASE ON TAX FOR USED AUTO IMPORTS...
Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin, who heads the interbranch commission for national foreign trade protection measures, said on 5 January that his commission has recommended that the government approve increased customs duties for used foreign cars, RBK news agency reported. According to Kudrin, after the measure is implemented, the price of automobiles seven years and older will more than double, and three- to seven-year-old autos by 1.5 to two times. The measure would not change the customs tax for imported autos aged three years or less. The government adopted this policy in principle last September, but Kudrin said that until recently there has been no political will to proceed with it for fear of "negative social consequences." VY

...AND REDUCES LEVY ON OIL EXPORTS BY TWO-THIRDS
The same commission also asked the government to cut the export tax on oil from 23.4 to eight euros per ton, Kudrin said the same day. The reduction of the oil export tax is intended to compensate for the loss of revenues suffered by Russian oil companies resulting from the fall in global oil prices and the decision by Kasyanov's government to cut Russia's oil quota by 150,000 barrels a day beginning this year, according to Kudrin. VY

RUSSIAN ARMY TO BE REDUCED TO UNDER 1 MILLION IN 2002
Nikolai Kormiltsev, the commander in chief of the Russian army's ground forces, said on 5 January that the number of military personnel will fall to under 1 million this year, Interfax reported. According to Kormiltsev, the changes will most dramatically affect the officers' corps, which has already seen a significant amount of officers leave its ranks. "Those who stay want to serve...even it is a service in the very hard conditions of the Dalnevostochnii and Sibirskii military districts," he concluded. VY

ST. PETERSBURG MOSQUE REPORTS INCREASED ATTENDANCE...
The Kazan administration will help repair a St. Petersburg mosque by the 300th anniversary of the northern capital, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 4 January, citing Tatar-inform. The number of parishioners at the mosque has been growing rapidly due to increasing migration from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, the North Caucasus, and Arab countries, as well as from new converts, St. Petersburg Mufti Dzhafar Ponchaev told islam.ru. Ponchaev added that he has begun saying prayers in both the Tatar and Russian languages. JAC

...AS TATARSTAN SEEKS TO REGAIN ICON OF OUR LADY OF KAZAN
President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev hopes that the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which is currently held in the Vatican, will be returned to Tatarstan before Kazan celebrates its 1,000th anniversary in 2005, Interfax reported on 6 January. In commenting on reports that Pope John Paul II intends to bring the icon to Russia on his own (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000), Shaimiev told Interfax that he learned from the media that the leader of Tatarstan's Muslims and member of the Council of Muftis Gusman Iskhakov has invited John Paul II to visit Kazan. VC

SOME REGIONS LEFT WITHOUT WATER...
As the Orthodox Christmas holiday approached, residents in a number of regions were experiencing a variety of outages of key services. On 4 January, almost 98,000 residents of Arkhangelsk were left without water in their homes because of an accident to a water pipeline, RIA-Novosti reported. Drinking water was being delivered to the area by trucks. In Volkhov, Leningrad Oblast, some 11,000 residents were left without heat on 3 January; however, by 5 January, the press service of the oblast's governor's office said heating had been restored, ITAR-TASS reported. Also left without heat on 3 January were more than 8,000 residents in the city of Ust-Kut in Irkutsk Oblast, Interfax reported. In a village in Sakha Republic, some 700 people were without heat as the outdoor temperatures dipped to minus 40 degrees Celsius. JAC

...AND PHONE SERVICE FOR THE HOLIDAYS
For other residents, the outages were not a temporary result of an accident but the result of a longer-term problem. For example, in Murmansk Oblast, residents of several raions plan to appeal to the prosecutor-general because they have not had working telephones since last fall as the result of a conflict between the local telephone service provider and railway, ntvru.com reported on 6 January. JAC

ALLEGED WOULD-BE MURDERER DOES WELL IN LOCAL ELECTION
A Moscow district court on 4 January turned down an appeal to release former Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov from custody pending the next hearing in his case for conspiracy to commit murder, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. Bykov is accused of trying to arrange the murder of businessman and alleged criminal Vilor Struganov. Law enforcement officials earlier faked Struganov's murder in order to snare Bykov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). Meanwhile, despite his incarceration, Bykov continues to play a significant role in Krasnoyarsk politics: the Bloc of Anatolii Bykov came in second in elections for the krai's Legislative Assembly held on 24 December. Candidates in Bykov's bloc attracted 17.13 percent of the total vote compared to 15.26 percent for the "For Lebed" bloc, and 8.8 percent for the pro-Kremlin Unity party. Aleksandr Lebed is the governor of Krasnoyarsk and foe of Bykov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 December. JAC

RENEWED FIGHTING IN ARGUN
Russian forces claim to have detained a total of 38 people during a special operation that got underway on 3 January in the town of Argun, east of Grozny, to round up Chechen fighters who escaped from a battle last week in the village of Tsotan-Yurt, Russian agencies reported. The town has been surrounded and roads leading from it to Grozny, Shali, and Gudermes have been blocked. Russian military spokesmen denied on 4 January either using artillery during the operation in Argun or incurring any casualties. Argun was the scene of a similar operation last month in which up to 60 civilians were detained and Russian troops indulged in looting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2001). LF

CHECHEN MINISTER KILLED BY FRIENDLY FIRE
Chechen Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Ruslan Yunusov died in Grozny hospital on 4 January after Russian servicemen opened fire on a suspicious vehicle he was trying to prevent from leaving the ministry's parking lot, Russian agencies reported. Two Russian contract servicemen have been arrested in connection with the killing. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT LAUDS ECONOMIC PROGRESS IN 2001...
In his televised New Year's address to the Azerbaijani people, President Heidar Aliev announced GDP growth of 10 percent in 2001, according to "Xalq qazeti" on 3 January, as cited by Groong. Industrial production increased by 5 percent, agricultural output by 11 percent, and foreign trade turnover by an estimated 22 percent. As a result, Aliev said, the average monthly salary has increased to 260,000 manats ($54). He said 63 percent of expenditures foreseen in the 2002 budget will be for the social sphere. But former Deputy Premier Ali Massimov took issue with that latter statement, telling Turan on 4 January that the true figure is closer to 20 percent, while almost 25 percent of all expenditures are earmarked for police, security, and intelligence agencies. Massimov further pointed out that the allowances for pensioners and other socially vulnerable individuals that have been abolished totaled some 450-500 billion manats ($99-$104 million), while the payments that have been introduced to replace them will not cost more than 183 billion manats, Turan reported on 7 January. LF

...IS NAMED 'FRIEND OF MEDIA'
Presumably as a result of his 27 December decree on alleviating the conditions under which the media operate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002), President Aliev was named as Friend of the Media in 2001 by 14 of 56 participants in the annual poll organized by the Committee for Journalists' Rights, Turan reported on 5 January. Democratic Party of Azerbaijan General Secretary Sardar Djalaloglu deplored that choice as ignoring official reprisals against the independent media over the past eight years, while Aydin Guliev, editor of the newspaper "Hurriyet," said he believes the outcome of the poll was falsified. Aliev's brother Djalal, who has brought numerous libel cases against journalists, was named enemy No. 1 of the media, followed by Siyavush Novruzov, deputy executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, and presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev. LF

INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS BARRED FROM NAKHICHEVAN PARLIAMENT SESSION
Only journalists from state-owned media were permitted to attend the 5 January session of the parliament of Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, Turan reported the same day. The parliament session approved the region's budget for 2002, but contrary to predictions by some independent newspapers it apparently did not call for the dismissal of numerous ministers. Meanwhile a member of the editorial board of the independent newspaper "Azadlyg" said all issues of that day's edition were confiscated at Nakhichevan airport on 5 January because the issue contained an article highlighting irregularities in the privatization process in Nakhichevan. Police at the airport denied, however, that the paper was confiscated. On 4 January, Turan reported that residents of the village of Bananiyar were told by Nakhichevan's Economic Development Minister Famil Seyidov that they would not be allowed to participate in the auction for a winery and motor and tractor plant in nearby Djulfa, as only relatives of those enterprises' directors would be permitted to bid. LF

MOSCOW PRESSURES GEORGIA OVER PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN ABKHAZIA
In a statement released on 4 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged Tbilisi to come to a decision on whether the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone should be renewed, Interfax reported. The Georgian parliament voted in October to demand the peacekeepers' withdrawal within three months of the expiry of their mandate on 31 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2001), and on 7 January Caucasus Press reported that parliament deputies from across the political spectrum will insist that deadline be met. During talks on 4 January in Tbilisi with CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the Georgian National Security Council will discuss the issue this week after which a decision will be made on whether to insist on the peacekeepers' withdrawal or a revision of their mandate, Caucasus Press reported. LF

OPPOSITION POLITICIANS QUESTION CALL FOR 'CONCESSIONS' IN ABKHAZ, SOUTH OSSETIAN CONFLICTS
Three opposition politicians have responded with skepticism to Shevardnadze's statement in his New Year's address that 2002 should be a year of "historic compromises" that will end the conflicts between the central Georgian government and the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 7 January. (According to the weekly "Qovelkvireuli kronika," only 29 percent of Georgians questioned bothered to listen to that address. The only two parliament deputies who did so were Communist Panteleimon Giorgadze and Socialist faction leader Irakli Mindeli; their colleagues preferred to watch the "Puppets" show on independent Rustavi-2 TV.) David Gamkrelidze, who heads the New Right Wing parliament faction, said he does not understand what concessions Shevardnadze has in mind, but agreed with the president that "we can only build a common Georgian state by means of mutual concessions." Republican Party leader David Berdzenishvili for his part argued that it is impossible to speak of compromise as long as Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba remain in power, and "utopian" to believe that any compromise can be reached in the near future. Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili accused Shevardnadze of aiming to split Georgia into several independent states under the guise of what Natelashvili termed "a Caucasian version of European confederationalism." LF

INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS TO EXAMINE GEORGIAN RADIOACTIVITY LEAK
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Tbilisi on 5 January to assess the danger posed by two containers with strontium-90 found in a forest in western Georgia last month, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Three foresters who brought the containers to their village to use as a source of heating have been hospitalized with severe radiation sickness. LF

KAZAKHSTAN REGISTERS STEEP RISE IN SERIOUS CRIME
The number of crimes committed in Kazakhstan in 2001 rose by 3.9 percent compared with the previous year to reach 127,969, Interfax reported on 5 January, citing the National Statistical Agency. The number of serious and extremely serious crimes jumped by 15.4 percent to reach 67,767, but economic crime fell by 2.7 percent and drug-related crimes by 20.7 percent. LF

ARRESTED KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE
Azimbek Beknazarov, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on court reform, began a hunger strike on 5 January after his arrest earlier that day in Djalalabad Oblast on charges of abuse of power while serving as an investigator in a murder case there in 1995, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. On 6 January, some 20 parliament deputies to the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz legislature) addressed an open letter to President Askar Akaev condemning Beknazarov's arrest as politically motivated and demanding his immediate release. On 18 December, 17 parliament deputies had written to Akaev to protest an ongoing campaign by the Prosecutor-General's Office to unearth materials incriminating Beknazarov, who has repeatedly criticized border agreements under which Kyrgyzstan has ceded territory to China and Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2001). LF

TAJIKISTAN TO CRACK DOWN ON ALCOHOL SALES
In a bid to stamp out trade in counterfeit alcoholic beverages, the Tajik government has issued new regulations stipulating that no alcoholic drinks may be sold unless they bear a certificate stating their provenance, ITAR-TASS and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Only producers and importers of such beverages will be empowered to issue such certificates. LF

EXILED TURKMEN OPPOSITION CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN
In a New Year's address to the people of Turkmenistan dated 4 January and posted on gundogar.com, the Provisional Executive Committee of the National Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan, which is headed by former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, deplored the fact that during the 10 years of Turkmenistan's independence President Saparmurat Niyazov has transformed the country into "an outcast" which "no one apart from himself takes seriously," that Niyazov rejected constructive cooperation with the international antiterrorism coalition, and failed to express support for the new Afghan government of Hamid Karzai. Defining their aim as "ridding Turkmenistan of Turkmenbashi," the committee's members deny that they are motivated by careerism or personal ambition. "We have only one goal -- to create a healthy democratic atmosphere in the country in which the law will reign and not Niyazov's evil will." They suggest that the best New Year's gift Niyazov could offer the people of Turkmenistan would be to resign voluntarily, following the example of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. LF

UZBEKISTAN RETURNS DETAINED POLITICIAN TO KAZAKHSTAN
Azat movement leader Oral Saulebay, who was detained by Uzbek police during a protest demonstration in the village of Baghys on the Kazakh-Uzbek border on 28 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 January 2002), was handed over to the Kazakh authorities on 4 January, AP reported the following day. According to Interfax on 4 January, the Kazakh-Uzbek border agreement signed in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001) delineates 96 percent of the two countries' shared border but does not include a 60-kilometer section including Baghys and the village of Turkestanets. LF

U.S. SENATORS VISIT UZBEKISTAN
Visiting Tashkent on 6 January, a group of nine U.S. Senators headed by Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and John McCain (R-Arizona) met with President Islam Karimov, Defense Minister Kadyr Gulamov, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sadyk Safaev to express their appreciation of Uzbekistan's decision to make its territory available to U.S. forces participating in the antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan, Russian agencies reported. They also pledged an increase in bilateral political and economic cooperation. LF

BELARUSIAN FARMING IN THE RED
According to preliminary data from the Statistics Ministry, 1,403 state-run agricultural enterprises, or 58.9 percent of the total number, ended last year in the red, Belapan reported on 5 January. The number of profitable agricultural enterprises fell from 1,237 in 2000 to 978 in 2001. The average profitability rate in the entire agricultural sector was minus 3.1 percent. JM

TWO JAILED, EIGHT FINED FOR ANTI-LUKASHENKA PROTEST
A district court in Brest on 5 January sentenced Uladzimir Maley and Henadz Samoylenka to 15 days in jail for their participation in an unauthorized demonstration, Belapan reported. Eight other participants were fined some $125 each. On 9 December in Brest, some 30 persons formed a "chain of indifferent people" to remind the public and authorities about the disappearances of opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. JM

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER DEEMS UKRAINE'S 2002 BUDGET UNREALISTIC
Presidential economic adviser Anatoliy Halchynskyy told the Kyiv-based "Fakty i Kommentarii" on 5 January that the 2002 budget signed by President Leonid Kuchma last week is "completely unrealistic." Halchynskyy said Kuchma signed the budget for political considerations. "Had he not done that, the country would have been left without a budget for at least six months, which was unacceptable," he added. The budget law sets the 2002 deficit at 4.3 billon hryvni ($810 million), or 1.7 percent of GDP. "[The budget] does not include the money needed to reimburse VAT, which is almost 5 billion hryvni. Additionally, we have no funds to finance many social benefits. The most conservative estimates suggest that this will add another 7 billion hryvni to the hidden deficit, bringing the total figure to 16.3 billion hryvni, or 4 percent of the GDP," Halchynskyy noted. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS STRIVE FOR MAJORITY IN FUTURE PARLIAMENT
At a congress on 5 January, the Communist Party of Ukraine approved its parliamentary election program and 225 candidates who will seek parliamentary mandates on a countrywide list, Interfax and UNIAN reported. The list is topped by Communist Party head Petro Symonenko and includes Crimean parliamentary speaker Leonid Hrach (No. 11) and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko (No. 20). Symonenko told the congress that the party's task in the 31 March election is to win more than 50 percent of parliamentary seats in order to take control of the parliament and form a new government. JM

UKRAINE'S SECURITY CHIEF INVESTIGATED FOR INVOLVEMENT IN ILLEGAL ARMS TRADING
The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal investigation against National Security and Defense Council head Yevhen Marchuk, former Security Service chief Leonid Derkach, and Derkach's son, lawmaker Andriy Derkach, for alleged involvement in illegal arms trading, Interfax reported on 4 January, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksandr Atamanyuk. The investigation was launched following an inquiry lodged by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak. Marchuk has said the allegations of his involvement are provocations aimed at discrediting him and the Security Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2001). JM

CENTER PARTY WANTS PEOPLE'S UNION IN ESTONIA'S NEW RULING COALITION
Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar told the Kanal 2 TV channel on 5 January that he cannot understand why People's Union Chairman Villu Reiljan is stating that the 2002 state budget would not allow his party to join a coalition with the Center and Reform Parties, BNS reported. Savisaar noted that the current ruling coalition has made significant revisions to the budget drawn up by the previous government of Mart Siimann and that a new coalition could do the same. Reiljan has expressed his dissatisfaction that the budget provides too little support for local governments. He also mentioned that although other Center Party officials have mentioned that the People's Union could be given posts heading the Environment and Agriculture Ministries, Savisaar has not yet contacted him about joining the new coalition. SG

DAIRY EXPORT PERMISSION RENEWED FOR FIVE LATVIAN COMPANIES
The Food and Veterinary Service restored the export certificates to the European Union for the dairies Limbazu piens, Vidzemes piens, Preilu siers, Rigas piena kombinats, and Rigas piensaimnieks on 4 January, LETA reported. The service suspended the certificates of nine dairies in early December after European Commission experts found shortcomings in milk sorting. The certificates were not restored to the dairies Tukuma piens, Valrit, Bauskas piens, and Pampali because they only plan to take measures to eliminate their shortcomings in February-May. SG

FORMER RUSSIAN PREMIER OPPOSED TO NATO ENTRY FOR LITHUANIA
Recently elected Russian Trade and Industry Chamber Chairman and former Premier Yevgenii Primakov stated during a private visit to Vilnius on 5 January that he does not want Lithuania to receive an invitation to join NATO at the Prague summit in November, BNS reported. He said such a move could threaten the international campaign against terrorism. Primakov asserted that there "are no obstacles" for the Russian State Duma to ratify the 1997 border agreement with Lithuania, and if new visa requirements are established should Lithuania become a member of the European Union, "Lithuania will suffer more because for each Kaliningrad resident crossing the Lithuanian border there are four Lithuanians going to Kaliningrad." An article in "Lietuvos rytas" on 7 January questioned this, noting that the Lithuanian budget would actually gain from stricter requirements since many Lithuanians only travel to Kaliningrad to purchase cheaper gasoline, alcohol, and sugar. SG

POLL SAYS 60 PERCENT OF POLES SUPPORT INTEGRATION INTO EU
The CBOS polling center found in a poll conducted on 7-10 December that 60 percent of respondents support Poland's integration into the EU, PAP reported on 4 January. According to CBOS, this is the highest percentage of integration supporters ever recorded in Poland. Of those polled, 44 percent believe that the Polish government is too compliant in talks with the EU, 27 percent are satisfied with the attitude of the Polish negotiators, 5 percent believe they are too "tough," and 24 percent have no opinion on the matter. JM

CZECH REPUBLIC PLANS TO ADDRESS PERCEIVED SEGREGATION IN 'SPECIAL SCHOOLS'
The Education Ministry has drafted a program to enhance Romany children's education that includes the closure of "special schools," which critics say lead to de facto segregation of Roma, CTK reported on 7 January, citing a report in the daily "Hospodarske noviny." More elementary schools will include classes that target "specific needs of children with social or cultural disadvantages," the paper said, instead of forcing such children into alternative institutions. Separate schools will remain only for children with severe mental disorders, the agency said. Local advocacy groups and international organizations, including Human Rights Committee, have called on the Czech government to take resolute steps to end segregation in the education system. Figures published by the Education Information Institute estimate that 30,000 children are enrolled in 432 "special schools" across the country. AH

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS CHARTER 77 STILL CONTAINS LESSONS FOR SOCIETY
Vaclav Havel commemorated the 25th anniversary of the former Czechoslovakia's best-known dissident manifesto by saying Charter 77 should still inspire people, CTK reported on 5 January. Havel, who was among the document's 242 signatories and one of its first spokesmen, said the declaration's spirit of decency, mutual respect, and solidarity carries lessons for people even today. He added that it also expresses the will to fight for good, even when such a struggle has no immediate hopes for success, the agency reported. AH

SECOND CZECH SOCCER KINGPIN CHARGED WITH FRAUD
A former deputy chairman of the Bohemian and Moravian Soccer Association, Jan Gottvald, has been charged with fraud and breach of fiduciary duties, CTK reported on 5 January, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." It is the second high-profile case of suspected fraud within that governing body's former leadership in the Czech Republic, following the arrest last year of former association Chairman Frantisek Chvalovsky. Gottvald has come under scrutiny over 200 million crowns ($5.6 million) in bills of exchange issued when he was chairman of the company Setuza, including to a firm within Chvalovsky's former industrial empire. The charge was delivered to Gottvald's lawyer in late December, and police regard Gottvald as a fugitive, CTK said. An anonymous police source was quoted as saying authorities believe Gottvald is inside the country. AH

SLOVAK OPPONENTS INCREDULOUS AS MECIAR DECLARES AFFINITY FOR NATO, EU...
Resurgent former Premier Vladimir Meciar told a Slovak Radio audience on 5 January that he is a supporter of that country's membership in NATO and the European Union, CTK reported. The leader of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) also reiterated his call for an agreement by all parties to maintain the country's current foreign policy orientation after the fall elections, the agency said. But political opponents remain skeptical, noting that hopes of quickly joining those institutions were eliminated under Meciar's 1993-98 administration. "It was this governing coalition that corrected a gross failure of the previous governing elite which pushed Slovakia away from NATO enlargement in 1997 and EU accession talks," Democratic Left Party Chairman Peter Weiss said. AH

...WHILE U.S. AMBASSADOR WARNS OF ISOLATION IF SLOVAK ELECTIONS USHER IN NON-NATO VALUES
U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ronald Weiser warned in a newspaper interview on 7 January that Slovakia will not be invited to join NATO if elections result in a government with "different values than the alliance," Reuters reported. If NATO passes on Slovakia, its bid to join the European Union by 2004 will be delayed, at best, the agency reported Weiser saying. "The forming of the future government will influence whether Slovakia gets an invitation [to join NATO] or not. In 1998, Slovakia had a government that had different values than the alliance. If the situation repeats itself, there will not be an invitation," Reuters reported, quoting an interview Weiser gave to the daily "Pravda." NATO will not try to influence Slovak voters' choice, he reportedly said, and in the same way Slovakia cannot influence people in NATO or make them think differently. AH

SLOVAK NATIONALIST CALLS FOR CHILLIER RELATIONS WITH HUNGARY
Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) leader Jan Slota said his country should withdraw from an agreement on good relations and friendly cooperation with Hungary in response to that country's introduction of the controversial Hungarian Status Law, TASR-Slovakia reported on 7 January. After charging arrogance and rudeness on the part of Hungarian representatives and ethnic Hungarian politicians in the country, Slota characterized Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan as being silent on the issue. He warned that Hungarians will always see Slovakia as their "upper land" and seek its return. AH

SENIOR OFFICIAL CAUTIONS SLOVAKIA OVER SUPPORT FOR NATIONAL UTILITY
The chairman of the State Assistance Office, Miroslav Hladik, warned on 4 January that current efforts to aid power company Slovenske Elektrane could complicate the country's goal of EU membership, TASR-Slovakia reported. The Finance Ministry has requested a state guarantee on 2.9 billion crowns in bonds to help the company, a move that Hladik calls unreasonable, the agency said. "Slovakia would probably have to give up hopes of closing the chapter of EU law on economic competition this year," he said. Hladik said his long-running feud with the government played no part in his assessment of the effort to prop up Slovenske Elektrarne, which would be effected through a bond issue underwritten by Slovenska Sporitelna savings bank. The cabinet approved a guarantee on the Slovenske Elektrarne bonds on 13 December, the same day shareholders at the power company approved the issue. AH

HUNGARIAN CABINET REASSURES TRADE UNIONS OVER STATUS LAW
The Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries' premiers on 22 December does not overwrite Hungary's Status Law, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said at a meeting of the National Labor Council on 4 January, Hungarian media reported. Martonyi said the memorandum merely states that work permits cannot be denied to Romanian citizens of any nationality if jobs are available in the Hungarian market. Romanian job seekers will not have to wait 30 days for permits, he explained. However, the Employment Act authorizes the Economy Ministry to determine the number of job permits issued, which implies that the number of foreign job seekers allowed to enter the country could not reach 100,000, Martonyi concluded. For his part, Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy told the Labor Council that 37,300 foreigners were issued job permits in Hungary last year, about half of whom were Romanian nationals. MSZ

HUNGARY'S SOCIALISTS SLAM STATUS LAW MEMORANDUM
The opposition Socialist Party's (MSZP) candidate for prime minister, Peter Medgyessy, called on 6 January for the cabinet to suspend the implementation of the Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding on Hungary's Status Law, saying the issue should be left for the next cabinet to resolve, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy said that although the Socialists will not withdraw their support for the Status Law, new elements are needed to implement it. MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said it is not the law, but the memorandum of understanding and its implementation that jeopardizes Hungary's labor market. For his part, Socialist former Prime Minister Gyula Horn said it is the duty of all parties to support ethnic Hungarians abroad, but not in a way that causes tensions. Responding to the Socialists' objections, FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni said that suspending the memorandum would be tantamount to suspending the Status Law itself in Romania, which in turn would lead to tension and serve the interests of anti-Hungarian forces. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PARTIES PREPARE FOR ELECTIONS
The Hungarian Democratic Forum's national council unanimously approved a joint FIDESZ-Forum list of election candidates on 5 January for all 176 individual parliamentary constituencies. The forum chose 27 of the joint candidates, in addition to PHARE Funds Minister Imre Boros, a former Smallholder, who will run in Zala County. In other news, Independent Smallholders' Party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan announced on 4 January that he will return to "grand politics" at the 19 January opening of his party's election campaign. Torgyan predicted that after the elections the Smallholders will become a factor in forming a new cabinet, according to Hungarian dailies. MSZ

SERBIAN BANK EMPLOYEES CONTINUE PROTEST...
Several hundred employees of Beogradska Banka, Beobanka, Jugobanka, and Investbanka remain in their offices to protest a decision by Yugoslav National Bank Director Mladjan Dinkic to close the four debt-ridden institutions, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported on 7 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2002). Police have succeeded in preventing employees from returning to join the lockout at Investbanka by allowing persons to leave the premises but not to enter them. In keeping with reforms sponsored by the World Bank, Dinkic has ruled out a bailout of the four banks, which would cost an estimated one-third of the GDP, Reuters reported on 4 January. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica disagrees with the decision to close the banks but will not contest it. However, Yugoslav Finance Minister Jovan Rankovic quit his post to protest the move. He belongs to Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), which has often espoused populist positions at odds with the Serbian government's more reform-minded approach. Meanwhile, bank workers plan to continue their protests. PM

...AND DEMAND AN END TO 'SHOCK THERAPY'
Union leaders representing bank employees appealed to President Kostunica on 7 January to stop what they called "shock therapy" and reverse Dinkic's decision, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade. The union leaders warned of adverse social consequences if the four banks' 8,500 employees lose their jobs. PM

RIVAL CHURCHES MARK ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS IN MONTENEGRO
In what has become an annual tradition, members of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the breakaway Montenegrin Orthodox Church staged rival Yule Log festivals in the historical capital, Cetinje, on 6 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. No incidents were reported there. But in Berane in eastern Montenegro, police broke up a violent incident, arresting several people. In his Christmas greetings, Serbian Orthodox Bishop Amfilohije called for "peace to all" and wished members of the rival church a "Merry Christmas," AP reported from Cetinje. Montenegrin Orthodox Bishop Mikhail said in his greetings that "we must extend a hand of friendship to our enemies to save them from themselves and their uncontrollable evil that has shaken all of Montenegro." PM

BOSNIA WANTS SACIRBEY ARRESTED
Bosnian Foreign Ministry officials said in Sarajevo on 5 January that they have asked Interpol to issue an arrest warrant for Muhamad Sacirbey, a former ambassador to the UN and foreign minister, Reuters reported. Sacirbey, who is known locally as Sacirbegovic, is charged with embezzling at least $610,000 from the UN mission in 2000 alone, his last year in the post. He has denied the charges, claiming that "postwar chaos" led to bookkeeping mistakes. But his critics note that he has ignored two requests to appear in court in Sarajevo to answer the charges and has made contradictory remarks regarding the case. Deputy Foreign Minister Ivica Misic said that "it is up to U.S. legal institutions" to determine what will happen to Sacirbey, who holds U.S. and Bosnian citizenship and lives in the U.S., AP reported on 6 January. "Mo" Sacirbey, who played soccer for Tulane and speaks native American English, was his country's chief international spokesman during much of the 1992-1995 conflict. His father spent years in communist jails as a political prisoner together with veteran Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic. PM

FORMER BOSNIAN PRESIDENT RETURNS HOME
Izetbegovic arrived in Sarajevo on 6 January after receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for a recurring heart problem, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002). Doctors used electric shock treatments to help regulate Izetbegovic's heartbeat. He suffers from weak heart muscles stemming from a blocked artery. The 76-year-old founder of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) has a weakened constitution as a result of his long imprisonment. PM

BOSNIAN SERB HELSINKI COMMITTEE SLAMS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Branko Todorovic, who heads the Republika Srpska's Helsinki Committee, told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service on 3 January that human rights violations continue to be "systematic" in the Bosnian Serb entity. He said the main reason for this is that the same people who previously made war and carried out "ethnic cleansing" are still in power. The only thing that has changed is that they now use more "perfidious" means than outright violence to achieve their goals, he said. Todorovic stressed that it is vital that Muslims, Serbs, and Croats all enjoy the same legal status throughout Bosnia if the power of all nationalists is to be broken. PM

GERMAN MILITARY BISHOP DETAINED IN MACEDONIA
Macedonian border authorities detained an unidentified member of KFOR upon his return from a visit to Kosova, the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 3 January. The authorities had found about 400,000 German marks in an automobile belonging to the German KFOR contingent. The same day, the main German television news program "Tagesschau" reported that the detainee was Dr. Walter Mixa, bishop of Eichstaett and Roman Catholic military bishop of the Bundeswehr. Mixa was arrested upon returning from a visit to German troops stationed in various parts of the Balkans. On 6 January, German television quoted Mixa as saying that according to German law, it is legal for him to transport the money. But it is not yet clear whether he violated Macedonian law. According to the bishop, the Macedonian Catholic diocese had asked him to deposit the money in a German Catholic bank. UB

KOSOVA PEACEKEEPERS TIGHTEN SECURITY AFTER SERB KILLED
A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 7 January that additional forces have been sent to Kamenica and patrols there increased following the killing of a Serbian shopkeeper there the previous day, AP reported. KFOR called the killing with a booby-trap grenade a "vicious and cowardly act." A curfew from midnight to 5:00 a.m. has been extended from 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Local Serb politicians said they condemn the "loathsome terrorist act on [Orthodox] Christmas Eve, before the great Christian holiday," Reuters reported on 6 January. PM

CROATIAN CAPITAL'S MAYOR IN DRUNKEN HIT-AND-RUN ACCIDENT
State-run television reported on 6 January that police chased and pulled over Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic after he caused a traffic accident and then drove on without stopping, according to dpa. Bandic tested positive for alcohol consumption. No one was injured in the incident. He now faces a fine and his driver's license has been suspended, Western news agencies reported. Bandic denied that he tried to escape a police chase, and explained his behavior as the result of his not being used to drinking. Bandic belongs to Prime Minister Ivica Racan's Social Democrats and is considered one of Croatia's more influential politicians. PM

ROMANIANS TRAVEL WITHOUT VISAS TO SCHENGEN COUNTRIES
The implementation of the EU's decision to lift visas for Romanian citizens has gone smoothly, according to a Romanian Foreign Ministry press release issued on 4 January. According to the report, the border authorities of the Schengen countries applied "in their spirit and letter" the EU's decision of last December. Romanian consuls supervised most important border crossings and reported no major problems. The Foreign Ministry reported, however, that a group of 23 Romanian tourists were denied entrance into Greece. Greek border authorities at a land border-crossing point with Bulgaria argued that the travelers had no proof that they had a place to stay while in Greece. The report stressed that Romanians traveling to Greece by plane and entering the country in Athens were not asked for any such proof of lodging. ZsM

INFORMATION OFFICES ON IMPLEMENTING HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW BEGIN WORK IN ROMANIA
Local offices giving information on implementing the provisions of the Hungarian Status Law have already started work, Mediafax reported on 4 January. Only hours after opening, hundreds of ethnic Hungarians expressed their will to get the Hungarian ID card that will grant them special rights in Hungary. In related news, the Romanian government's secretary-general, Serban Mihailescu, said Slovakia and Ukraine have told Hungary that they intend to follow Romania's example in implementing the Status Law. Romania and Hungary signed an agreement on 22 December that prohibits the law's enforcement in Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). ZsM

COMMITTEE FOR 'DE-RUSSIFICATION' OF MOLDOVAN SCHOOLS ESTABLISHED
Participants at a 3 January meeting in Chisinau protesting the introduction of compulsory Russian-language classes in schools established the "Committee for De-Russification of Moldovan Schools," Flux reported. According to a press release, the committee is a response to the "dramatic situation in the educational system." The committee is to fight against the "abusive and totalitarian measures of the Communist government." The committee launched a signature-collecting campaign against the introduction of Russian classes. ZsM

BULGARIA RENEWS RELATIONS WITH IRAN
During his three-day official visit to Iran, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi met his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharazi, in Tehran on 5 January, BTA reported (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2002). After the meeting, the ministers expressed their satisfaction that the two countries have renewed relations, which had been suspended for more than 10 years. "We discussed various options for fuel transportation from this region to Europe, and one of these options is a corridor via Bulgaria," Kharazi said after the meeting. Pasi, who was accompanied by a business delegation, was also received by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. "If just a few of the 30 businessmen who accompany me manage to establish fine business relations with Iranian partners, this will be a success," Pasi said. UB

BULGARIA FORMS ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING TASK FORCE
Bulgarian authorities inaugurated a National Human Trafficking Task Force Center at the National Service for Combating Organized Crime, BTA reported on 4 January. The staff of the new center will be made up of members of the National Police Service, the Border Police, and the National Central Bureau of Interpol. A special agent of the FBI, Victor Moore, will assist the center in its efforts to coordinate the work of several involved government services. The U.S. State Department supported the facility with a $90,000 grant. Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov thanked U.S. Ambassador Richard Miles for that help. Last year, Bulgarian authorities registered some 10,000 cases of illegal border crossings. UB

BULGARIA TO CONCLUDE EU ACCESSION TALKS IN 2003?
Bulgarian chief negotiator with the EU Meglena Kuneva said in an interview with Bulgarian National Radio that EU accession talks could be completed in 2003, BTA reported on 6 January. Her statement came following a visit by a delegation from the European Commission. Dimitris Kourkoulas, who headed the delegation, said he is optimistic about Bulgaria's EU membership prospects. He added that the European Commission will continue to assist Bulgaria in the negotiation process. UB

ANALYSIS SAYS BULGARIA HAS IMPROVED INTERNATIONAL STANDING
An analysis by the investment bank J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. said that Bulgaria's international reputation has improved considerably during the past months, BTA reported on 7 January. The IMF and the World Bank are ready to support the government's economic plans with new loans worth $500 million to $1 billion over the coming two or three years, according to the agency. Main European institutions acknowledge the country's progress toward a market economy. The Bulgarian Finance Ministry published a version of the report, which states that the most critical issues in the short term will be the reform of the energy sector, the privatization of large enterprises, and the implementation of the 2002 budget. UB

There is no End Note today.


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